Cinder’s Advice: Giving Medication to a Cat

In December 2013, my husband and I adopted a one-year-old tortoiseshell cat from Hearts United for Animals. Cinder has taught us so much about cats that it seemed proper for her to have her own advice column.

QUESTION: How can I get my cat to take medication?

Recap of part one: A few days after I got adopted, I stopped feeling so good. Every time I bit into a treat, my mouth filled with pain. What the vet discovered shocked my owners and me. I’ll just say that I was very fortunate to have been adopted by people who loved me enough to take such diligent care of me, even though I had only been with them a few days.

Now part two: The vet told my owners that I had something called stomatitis. The vet thought I might have an allergy to plaque. Without treatment, I’d continue to have plaque and eventually the plaque would lead to much worse stuff like failure of my kidneys. Because plaque is full of bacteria, and because my immune system was overreacting to those bacteria, the vet prescribed yucky tasting antibiotics to kill the bacteria. Everyone hoped this would reduce the inflammation in my mouth.

A week later, my owners took me to the vet again. The news wasn’t any better. The vet reported that my gums still looked bad. But she didn’t give up. She prescribed steroids, which my owners hid in my food. They thought I didn’t know, but we cats have a very strong sense of smell. I decided to stick to my resolution to let them do whatever it took to get my health back and ate the food with the pill.

Not all cats are as cooperative. If cats turn up their nose at pills (whether whole or crushed) in their food, try some of these suggestions:

  • Buy a package of yummy Pill Pockets and encase the pill in the pill pocket. Your cat will taste the pill pocket but not the pill.
  • Ask for your vet if the pill is available in paste form. The paste will cost more than a pill but can be rubbed on our ears to avoid the risk that we’ll go on a life-threatening hunger strike.
  • Pop the pill into our mouth. You’ll need to restrain us, which won’t be easy. Here are some tips Hold the top of our head by placing your thumb on one side of our upper jaw and our fingers on the other side. Tilt our head back gently until our nose points toward the ceiling, which should cause our jaw to open just enough for you to pop in the pill.
  • Place your hand under our chin with your thumb against one cheek and your fingers against the other cheek, and push in gently until we open their mouth.
  • For those cats who prefer to be held on their back, cradle them like a baby, but with their head and neck in an upright position. Then just use your hand to open their mouth and pop in the pill.
  • Use a pill-popper. It looks a like a syringe, but instead of a needle there are plastic “jaws” that hold a pill, which will “pop” into our mouths when you depress the plunger. One you have us restrained, take the pill popper with the pill already placed in it, and use it to open our mouth by pushing it into the side of our mouth. Next, push the pill popper to the back of our mouth, depress the plunger. There’s less chance of being bitten since it’s the pill popper that will go into your cat’s mouth, not your fingers.

I wish I could tell you that the medication worked and that the vet visits were over. Unfortunately, the next step was a trip to a specialist More about that in my next column!

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